March 31, 2020

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Tisha b’Av 5777

Tisha b’Av was weird for me this year. I sat in shul and listened to the eicha reading, and it spoke to me about current events, not about what happened thousands of years ago. Last week the Jewish people suffered a terrible defeat, but unlike the sack of Jerusalem life went on though the wall was already breached. Jerusalem wasn’t destroyed and we didn’t eat our children, and everything is continuing as it was before – perhaps there is an upsurge in Arab terrorism, but as yet it’s still small (give it time) – but notice or not, we have just passed over a crack in history, one of those currently invisible seams that historians a hundred years from now will describe as chasms.

The Arabs noticed. What most Jewish Israelis saw as yet another incident in Jerusalem (and most diaspora Jews had no idea even occurred) was marked by the Arabs with celebrations, giving out sweets and firing in the air. The Arabs who breathe the air of symbolism and national honor understood the significance of their victory over the yahood.

All your enemies have opened their mouths wide against you; they hissed and gnashed their teeth and said, “We have engulfed her! Indeed, this is the day we longed for; we have found it; we have seen it!” – Eicha, II-16

At first it seemed the opposite. It seemed as though we might have started to turn around what has been an inexorable process of retreat and submission that began almost immediately after our great victory in 1967, when the entirety of the holy city of Jerusalem and its Temple Mount came into our possession for the first time since the days of King David. “What do we need this whole Vatican for?” said Moshe Dayan, when he relinquished control of the Mount to the Muslim waqf and planted the seed for the conflict over the heart of our land that has been simmering and sometimes boiling ever since.

Dayan and the de facto alliance of Haredim and leftists that would be happy without “this whole Vatican” ignored the symbolic importance of this spot, the center of the world for Judaism. But the Arabs did not ignore it. Every chance they got, they pushed and chipped and nibbled away at the “status quo,” which actually hasn’t been static at all but has moved steadily in the direction of the Muslims for the past 50 years.

So our government installed metal detectors and cameras in response to the bloody murder of our policemen, a step that any rational being can understand, and the Arabs answered by inciting their street to rage and murdering three members of a Jewish family. But then the unexpected happened. The waqf called for a boycott of the site, and for the first time in years Jews could walk about on the Temple Mount unmolested!

Some of us thought that this time the Arabs had overreached themselves. This time all we have to do is stand firm to assert our sovereignty over the place that, after all, is in the center of our capital. Maybe this can be the start of a process that could bring about a change in the demeaning policy that Jews aren’t allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, or do anything (even to cry) that looks to our Muslim overlords like praying. Maybe more hours could be allocated to Jewish visits, and maybe the banshees that shriek allahu akbar into Jewish ears could finally be banished.

But as everyone knows, we did not stand firm. None of the above will happen. There were riots all over the country and even in Europe and the US, and our leaders, our Prime Minister, blinked. We removed the metal detectors, took down the security cameras, and when that didn’t calm the ravening mob we even removed the scaffolding that had been installed to hold the cameras. At the same time announcements were made about new super-high tech security devices that someday would replace them.

As if. The Arabs weren’t fooled. They understood that we had submitted to their demands, submitted, actually, to the power of Islam, because the Jewish people are weak, because we are cowards, because we aren’t prepared to fight for what belongs to us. All of the explanations, the excuse of the crisis with Jordan – we had to bring the hostages home, didn’t we? –  the need to calm things down, the argument that the metal detectors would be difficult to use and wouldn’t provide adequate security (so no security is better?), it’s all a bunch of crap and the Arabs know it.

And the victory has made them hunger for more. Maybe it will become harder for Jews to visit the Mount. Or maybe they will press their claim for what they call the “al-Buraq wall” (our Kotel). Maybe they will find a new issue that nobody has thought of yet. Or maybe they will just try harder to murder Jews wherever and whenever they can.

What starts in Jerusalem spreads throughout the country. Just a few hours ago in a town next to mine, an Arab walked into a supermarket, pulled out a knife and stabbed one of the workers. The victim is currently fighting for his life. Expect more like this.

Our government made a serious mistake. But not because nobody predicted what would happen. Many voices in and out of politics told them to be strong. And not because they didn’t know what to expect. Simply, they couldn’t take the pressure, so they gave in.

Personally, I have lost confidence in PM Netanyahu. Not because I think he didn’t understand the situation or our enemies, but because he did. He understood, but he didn’t  act with strength as he should have. It’s not the first time.

Today the Jewish state and Jewish people are threatened from multiple directions. There is very little room left for mistakes or weakness.

Where (and who) are our leaders?

And gone from the daughter of Zion is all her splendor; her princes were like harts who did not find pasture, and they departed without strength before their pursuer. – Eicha, I-6

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